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How coaches can support their athletes during exam season

The exam period can be a difficult time for coaches with their athletes needing to manage their training schedule around their revision.

As coaches it’s important to support them during this time as exam season can be a particularly stressful period for young athletes.

Here, Swim England’s coaching team have put together some advice for aquatics coaches to help their athletes both in and out of the pool.

When coaching during exam season it’s important to consider the effect of training and practice on studying and exam performance.

Young people will have different academic goals but no matter what these aspirations are the key message is that sport should enhance rather than compete against their academic goals.

In order for coaches to support athletes it is important to communicate early and regularly. A plan can give the athlete a greater feeling of control and therefore reduce stress.

This is an important time to communicate and support your athletes. We know this can feel like ‘make or break’ for them but as with education there are different routes to making it in sport. All or nothing thinking traps are easy to fall into and can increase stress.

Taking the time out to discuss a training programme with them and their parents will be helpful for all parties and give the athlete the support that they need.

Make sure to support their individual choices and use personality and past experience to decide on a personal approach.

Discuss with the athlete and their parents around the importance of training during this period for the athlete’s well being. Consider the effect of what doing too much training or studying can have and what a good balance may look like.

Exam stress and training stress are combined but are not differentiated by the brain so prepare for a potential change in response to training because of this. Ensure you are individualising your programme to meet these needs as much as you can.

Below are ten things you can work both the athlete and their parent/guardian to achieve.

  • Agree a revision and training timetable between you, the athlete and their parent/guardian.
  • Plan a schedule to include revision, exams, training, social and recovery time.
  • Keep a healthy diet and good hydration to improve memory and attention.
  • Having good posture whilst revising to prevent back pain and shoulder tightness
  • Continue with daily self checks to retain flexibility and prevent ‘niggles’.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as listening to music and breathing exercises.
  • Make best use of your time, avoid procrastination
  • Keep in regular communication with both the athlete and parent/guardian.
  • Set goals and review them after the exam period.
  • Agree on a post exam training plan.
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